Today, June 7th, would have been my dad's 72nd birthday and this December marks the twentieth anniversary of his murder. I have spent half of my life without a dad, and to tell the truth, I don't really remember what it's like to even have one.
Every year, when either his birthday, Father's Day, or the anniversary approaches, I tell myself , "Just don't think about it too much. Don't walk around or mope so people will know I am thinking about him. I can think about him, (or not), and cry about him, (or not)." Trying not to think about any of it just makes his absence even more overwhelming, which, of course, makes me cry anyway.
Last night I was looking at some pictures my mom posted on her Facebook page and I was so taken by both my parents' youth, their beauty, their...togetherness. It struck me that once upon half-a-lifetime-ago, I had parents - plural. In that other part of my life, never did I imagine that there would be any parenting done by anything less than two people.
As a kid, I always imagined that when I was a grown woman with my own kids, I'd return to my parents' house - my childhood house- to watch them "grandparent" my children. I struggle now, still trying to imagine what it would have been like. Would my dad be more interactive with them than he was with me? Would my mom have the kids sleep over on weekends and make them teddybear-shaped pancakes in the morning? Would my mom even wake up before 10:30 to make the pancakes? Would my kids climb the same tree that my sisters and I climbed in the backyard? My life seems punctuated with endless question marks. You know, I actually rent out small spaces in the worlds of "what-if," "it's not fair," and "why us? why me?" It's not even like I want to be in any of those places; real estate there is automatically included in the "losing-a-loved-one" package.
On any of the occasions that would typically honor my father's life, like today, it's his death that somehow winds up dominating my mind. It's not the memories of his life, or the memories of the (very) few things we did together that pop into my mind, but the way he died and what my entire family is missing because of his death that saturates my thoughts. However, there are years when his birthday comes and goes almost as if it's like any other day, but maybe because my kids have to be somewhere or the day is simply over-scheduled enough to keep my mind mostly occupied. While I always acknowledge the day somehow, even if silently to myself, and allow it to pass dry-eyed, I will still call my mom just because I want to acknowledge it outloud for her.
So many years have gone by now and all of the people in my daily life have no clue who my father was, including my husband and children. My mother recently said that she wanted to write a memorial to him on the twentieth anniversary of his death because, "I want people to remember him, to remember he was here." Maybe it wasn't in those exact words, but pretty close. When a person passes away, all you hear is that person's name for some time. But then what happens after those first few months or even a year? Nothing. Nobody ever mentions it again, as if that person never existed at all. At least that's how it feels. Certainly, I don't expect anyone to say my dad's name in casual conversation every day for the remainder of my life, but it would be nice if someone had a random memory to share with me about him. I'm a huge believer in sharing; I do it all the time. I remember seeing a friend many years after high school and telling her how I still remembered the smell of the soap in the bathroom of her childhood home, and also a funny story about her father, who had since passed away. She seemed so grateful to know that someone remembered those things, especially about her dad. Honestly, I told her because they were happy memories for me and I really wanted to share them just for the sake of reconnecting through that old childhood bond, but in the end, I was thrilled that it made her feel good on a completely different level.
I feel so accustomed to silence where my own dad is concerned. Sure, every once in awhile you have to tell someone that your loved one is dead if it comes up in coversation, and sure, he or she says they're sorry. As sorry as anyone might be, there's a certain disconnect to their sympathy because they never knew the person who died. I really wish someone in my life actually knew him, knew he existed which makes me understand my mom feels compelled to write a memorial in honor of him. Last night, feeling overwhelmed with life and feeling sad looking at the old pictures of my parents, I started to cry for a few minutes. Nobody wants to be sad alone, so I went downstairs to sit with my son and my husband but I started to cry again. My son asked me what was wrong and I said, "Tomorrow would have been your grandpa's birthday." Neither of them said a word. Their complete, yet faultless, disconnect to my sadness was because neither of them knew my dad nor understood my loss, but their silence made my grief even more suffocating. So, I called my mom.
I really never know exactly how I'm going to feel on Father's Day, when I have to give cards to my husband's dad instead of my own, for instance, or on my dad's birthday, like today. Maybe I'll mention it to my friend if we're on the phone, or I'll call my sister and talk about how old my father would be if he was still alive. Maybe I'll say hi to him when I finally go to bed, in the dark, at the end of a long day full of child-related activities. Maybe I'll cry alone, like I've done many, many times.
What I do know is that I love him and I'm heartbroken that he's not here anymore. But at one time, he was here. For all of you who never knew him, or for all of you who knew I once had a father but don't remember him, his name was Nathan Mizrahi.
And today, he's "Seventy-Two."